Maputo — A hearing in the northern province of Cabo Delgado of two Mozambican journalists, Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano, facing trumped up security charges, has been postponed due to the absence of two witnesses regarded as fundamental by the prosecution, according to a report in Monday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais".
The two journalists should have been questioned by the judge, in the provincial capital, Pemba, last Thursday, but the hearing was postponed when the witnesses did not show up.
According to the journalists' lawyer, Augusto Messiaramba, the court alleged the witnesses did not receive notification in due time, since they live about 400 kilometres from Pemba.
The hearing was part of preliminary proceedings, and Messiaramba was confident that the case will not go to trial because of inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the prosecution.
"We came to prove the innocence of the journalists", said Messiaramba, "but the judge delayed the hearing to 27 June because the two witnesses had not arrived. We're almost certain that this case will not go to trial, because there's not enough evidence of their involvement in the crimes of which they are accused".
The two journalists both worked on the Nacedje community radio in Macomia district, one of the areas in Cabo Delgado worst hit by a low-level insurgency believed to be inspired by Islamic fundamentalism.
Abubakar was seized on 5 January in Macomia town, while he was photographing families fleeing from attacks in the interior of the district. Adriano was arrested the following month.
The police handed Abubacar over to the military who held him in a barracks in Mueda district, although it is illegal to detain civilians in military facilities. When Ricardo Moresse, chairperson of the human rights commission of the Mozambique Bar Association (OAM), was able to speak to Abubacar in late January, the journalist told him he had been beaten and starved while in custody.
Abubacar and Adriano were released from detention against a statement of identity and residence on 22 April. The charges against them were softened. Initially, the two were accused of violating state security and committing "public instigation using computerised means".
But by mid-April, the prosecution had changed its mind. According to a prosecution dispatch of 16 April, the two are accused of "spreading messages that discredit members of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) through a Facebook account that announced attacks which occurred in villages in Macomia district".
According to the independent newssheet "Carta de Mozambique", the Facebook account in question was investigated last December. "Carta de Mocambique" exposed the fake nature of the account - and one of the journalists who worked on this expose was none other than Amade Abubacar, who was a stringer for the paper, writing under a pseudonym.